HHSAA softball: With pitchers on point, Honokaa and Kohala head to quarterfinals

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Kohala's Mikaya Kekoa – pictured here earlier in the season against Kamehameha – struck out 14 on Wednesday as the Cowgirls beat Waipahu 12-3 in the first round of the HHSAA Division II softball tournament.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Honokaa's Ceelyn Gali-Lucero – pictured here earlier in the season against Hilo – collected three hits Wednesday as the Dragons beat McKinley 11-3 in the first round of the HHSAA Division II softball tournament. Tehani Epenesa struck out 13 in a three-hitter.

Honokaa’s Tehani Epenesa and Kohala’s Mikayla Kekoa brought their A games with them to Kahului, Maui.

Each struck out 14 on Wednesday as the North Hawaii teams aced their first round tests, giving the BIIF three quarterfinalists at the HHSAA Division II softball tournament.

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The Dragons mashed McKinley 11-3 to win in the first round for the second consecutive season. Epenesa didn’t allow an earned run, striking out the side in the first, second and fifth innings in fashioning a three-hitter.

“Everything just kind of fell into place,” Honokaa coach Virgil Agustin said. “We always look forward to playing Oahu teams. We know how high caliber they are. I wanted to see how the girls would respond.

“Tehani pitched exactly how we wanted her to.”

Kekoa did as well for the most part, working around eight walks in a two-hitter and clubbing a three-run home run as the BIIF runner-up Cowgirls thumped Waipahu 13-2.

Kohala continued an odd trend. Since 2013, it’s alternated between state first round wins in odd years and losses in even ones.

Laila Caravalho collected four hits, including an RBI single in the first as the Cowgirls scored five times, and a two-run single in the third as they tacked on four more runs.

Kohala (13-6) takes on third-seeded Kapaa of Kauai at noon Thursday in the first quarterfinal at Patsy Mink Field.

Honokaa (12-6), the BIIF’s third-place team, follows at 2:15 p.m. against OIA champ Waialua, the No. 2 seed.

The Dragons belted out 13 hits to subdue the Tigers (8-5) of the OIA. Leadoff hitter Natasha Molina doubled and scored in the first then doubled in a run in the second, finishing 3 for 5, and Ceelyn Gali-Lucero also finished with three hits, including a hit to lead off the seventh that fueled a five-run rally.

Epenesa, who scored three runs, didn’t allow a hit after the fourth. She walked four.

“She’s been hitting her spots, that’s all we ask,” Agustin said.

Kierra Molina and Shaela Jardine each had two hits for the Dragons, and Waiehu Kauahi-Raquel doubled home her team’s final run.

Armed with a 5-0 lead, Kekoa took to the circle in the bottom of the first and walked three batters, hit another, threw three wild pitched and allowed two runs – all while striking out the side.

The senior right-hander fanned two more in each inning but the third and was backed by fine defense.

Iyana Villon came into the game as pinch-runner and finished with two hits, including an RBI single, and three runs scored, and Kekoa was 2 for 4 with a walk and four RBIs.

The OIA Marauders (6-8) committed five of the game’s six errors.

In the nightcap Thursday, BIIF champion and top seed Kamehameha (18-0) faces Kauai’s Waimea (8-6), which came back to beat Nanakuli 7-5 after scoring six runs Wednesday in the sixth inning.

The Warriors are looking for the their first state title.

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In Division I, fourth-seeded Kealakehe is hoping to become the first BIIF team to reach the semifinals since 2008 (Waiakea).

In a noon quarterfinal Thursday at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium in Honolulu, the BIIF champion Waveriders (11-6) take on Iolani (16-5), which edged Waianae 11-10 on Wednesday.

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